Once again, Omaha Public Power District is hearing about increased scam phone calls its customers are receiving today. We’ve received at least 22 reports as of 11:30 a.m. today, but that number is expected to climb before the day is over.
Our latest customer reports indicate yet another new twist to this con.
Previous reports from our customers indicated that aggressive callers, claiming to represent the utility, told them they were overdue on their bills or owed money for equipment – neither of which was true. The scammers demanded over-the-phone payments with bank or credit cards or pre-purchased debit or gift cards. They threatened that if customers don’t pay up quickly, their power would be disconnected.
This time around, our customers are reporting robocalls from scammers. The pre-recorded messages are targeted, providing customers’ addresses, and claiming power will be shut off in 30 minutes due to nonpayment. The message instructs customers to call their 800 number back to make a payment. The number provided does not connect them with the utility, but instead, to thieves.
While their techniques may change, what these scammers are doing is not new. Con artists have been targeting utility customers across the country for years. Customer reports of these phone calls tends to pick up speed several times a year.
And their numbers are increasing, year over year:
- In 2017, OPPD logged 480 reports of scam phone calls, with 10 customers losing money to them.
- In 2018, OPPD logged 714 reports of scam phone calls, with 28 customers losing money to them.
The scammers are also becoming increasingly savvy, using technology to their advantage. Today, we’re hearing about robocalls. But live scam callers also tend to use “spoofing” technology so that caller identification appears to show a legitimate OPPD phone number.
OPPD stresses that none of these people demanding payments or financial information works for the utility. The utility never cold-calls customers to demand immediate payment.
OPPD advises customers:
- Never give personal or financial information to a stranger during an unsolicited phone call.
- If such a person should appear unannounced at your door, claiming to work for the utility, do not allow them inside. Always ask for identification or verification. OPPD employees always carry identification. Failure to produce identification should be a tip-off to the customer that something is wrong.
- Never turn off security systems for any reason, if a stranger asks. Any customer who receives such a request should call law enforcement immediately.
Customers with questions about making a payment, or about their account in general, should always call OPPD directly. Within Omaha, the number is 402-536-4131.
Customers in our rural areas may talk with their local offices during business hours, as well.
Outside of Omaha, customers should call 1-877-536-4131.